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US Vice President Biden hints at prolonged Iraq occupation
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US Vice President Joe Biden says the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq should not be viewed as American disengagement in the country.
Biden said Washington plans to remain involved in Iraq for years to come even after the complete withdrawal of US troops in September 2011.

“Drawing down our troops does not mean disengaging from Iraq," dpa quoted Biden as saying at a gathering of US veterans in Indianapolis, Indiana on Monday.

"In fact, quite the opposite is true,” Biden added.

On Thursday, the last Iraq-based US combat brigade, the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division quit the war-torn country. However, Washington still maintains some 50,000 troops in the country.

According to a bilateral security agreement negotiated in 2008, these US forces are to be withdrawn by December 31, 2011.

He also expressed confidence that Iraqis would be able to form a government following inconclusive March elections.

Iraq has witnessed a rise in violence in recent months as the country remains grappling with a five-month-long political impasse after the key March 7 general elections failed to produce a clear winner.

The rising militancy culminated in July which became the deadliest month since 2008.

According to figures provided by the Iraqi government, 535 people have been killed so far this year.

More than 100 people have already lost their lives in August.

President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement later this month before the official conclusion of the US combat mission in Iraq.

MN/MGH